Sources of Funds for International Students in the US

December 1st, 2006 by Keith Clausen

Most international students at US colleges and universities still must rely on their own sources of funds to pay for their education — like family funds, loans and savings. Although many US schools continue to increase the number of scholarships and the amount of financial aid available to international students (for instance, see InternationalStudent.com’s November newsletter article #7 about Stanford’s new policy), the responsibility for paying for college in the US still largely falls on the student and his or her family. This is particularly true for undergraduates.

Data from Open Doors 2006, an annual report published by the International Institute for Education, shows the sources of funds for international students in the US. Here’s an excerpt showing the primary source of funds for international undergraduate and graduate students in the US:

Primary Source of Funds
% Under- graduate
% Graduate
Personal & Family
81.5
46.1
U.S. College or University
11.4
46.5
Home Government/University
2.2
2.7
U.S. Government
0.3
0.6
U.S. Private Sponsor
2.1
1.0
Foreign Private Sponsor
1.7
1.5
International Organization
0.2
0.3
Current Employment
0.1
0.9
Other Sources
0.6
0.5

Graduate students are much more likely to receive financial assistance from their school, often in the form of assistantships, research grants, etc., whereas very few undergraduates receive any form of aid from their school. There are undergraduate scholarships available at many schools — search InternationalScholarships to see just how many are available — but the lesson from these numbers is, be prepared to pay your own way.

In addition to scholarships, International Student Loans are available to international students in the US or Canada, if you have or can find a US co-signer. These loans are just as good as domestic US students can get, and make study in the US possible for thousands of international students.

But even with loans available, no one wants to be hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt coming out of college, which is easy to rack up at expensive schools in expensive cities (see our post on evaluating school program costs). A solution that more and more international students are turning to is the system of community colleges in the US. Just like US students, international students have figured out that they can save tens of thousands of dollars by doing the first two years of an undergraduate degree at a community college, then transfering to a four-year school to complete your degree.

In the next post, we’ll talk about international students accessing community colleges in the US.

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